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British authorities rescue 'slave labourers'

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13:06 CEST+02:00
British authorities have revealed their involvement in the rescue this year of 15 teenage boys working in Stockholm as "slave labourers".

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Sunday Telegraph that the boys were threatened with beatings if they made any attempt to leave the prison-like conditions in which they were kept. They are desperately underpaid and often resort to stealing from supermarkets to make ends meet.

"Lots of the boys come from a weak social situation. Some were born and raised in children's homes, with no education, no parents. Some were picked up in pubs or on the street," Robert Granath of the Swedish border police told the Sunday Telegraph.

Police in Britain and Sweden are looking into the activities of ten criminal families thought to be behind the scheme in the hope bringing trafficking charges, the Sunday Telegraph reports.

This network of families is reported to have systematically "abducted" 17 to 19-year-old boys from British towns and cities.

The boys are then taken by ferry from Newcastle to Stavanger in Norway before being moved on to the Swedish capital.

Swedish television station TV4 has reported that the men are forced to work fifteen hours a day, and live in derelict caravans without access to food or water. Around 100 British men are said to be working as pavers in the Stockholm area. Police estimate that around half of these are forced to live in squalid conditions.

Swedish police have described the activities as "pure slave trading". Jimmy Åberg of Swedish border police spoke of the building workers as "street children".

Åberg told TV4 that many of the youngsters came from difficult backgrounds, had criminal records or had learning difficulties. Many of them don't even know which country they're in, he said. They are recruited with promises of good jobs; when they arrive in Sweden, their passports are confiscated.

Escape is near impossible for the workers:

"Those whom we have met say that they have been persecuted and subjected to threats and violence," Åberg told TV4.

Swedish Police have been receiving complaints since the beginning of the 1990s about the poor workmanship of English-speaking paving companies.

Reporting on the problem last sumer, Sydsvenska Dagbladet described a recurring pattern: workers arrive at a house and offer to pave the driveway for an agreed fee.

They later claim to need more money to buy additional paving stones or asphalt. As soon as they have received payment they move on to the next job, leaving a half-finished driveway behind.

The Sunday Telegraph reports that their job became more difficult this year when asphalt traders, tired of repeated payment problems, cut off the supply of materials.

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